You can find the spirit of Antioch University New England (AUNE) in many places, including the roller derby track. The spirit of Antioch just flows through it, said Lauryn Morley, MEd ’13, a Waldorf alumna, first-grade teacher at Pine Hill Waldorf school, and a jammer/blocker for the Mad Knockers, a Monadnock Roller Derby team. I love it; it combines the heavy headwork of grad school and the physicality of roller skating.
Something about roller derby is different; there’s a spirit about it that’s different than any other sport, said Jess Gerrior (Jessicutioner), MS ’12, team president. The way we lift each other up; it’s very special. And it’s given me the courage to do things I’ve been scared to do; I just do them anyway.
Alum Tuul Sukhbaatar (The Mongol), MS ’12, now an Environmental Studies (ES) doctoral student, had never played a team sport before she went to a derby scrimmage. Immediately, I had to do it, said Tuul. Jess found roller derby two years ago, where she ran into Tuul. I didn’t know any other Antioch students in roller derby at the time, but I showed up and it seemed like every other person was from Antioch, said Jess, whose day job is sustainability coordinator for Franklin Pierce University.
Jess had skated as a child, revealing early roller derby talent. I probably got in trouble for skating anywhere and everywhere, regardless of whether it was safe or appropriate. She hadn’t been on skates for thirteen years when she joined roller derby. Just two years later, she’s president and captain of the team.
AUNE has other connections at the roller derby track, too: alum Dawn Elliot, MS ’12, Elise LeComte, MS’13, and Maisie Rinne, MS ’13, are all former derby skaters. And you can always find someone from AUNE in the bleachers.
The Monadnock Roller Derby league has male, female, and co-ed teams, as well as junior teams like the Mad Knockers’ Missfits, ages 12 to 17. The Mad Knockers includes women from many professional administrative assistants, graphic artists, teachers, educators. Many of us are moms and parents, so we have full, active lives outside of the sport, Jess said.
Explaining roller derby is, well, let’s just say that the rule book is more than 60 pages long. Very briefly, the goal is to help one member of your team the jammerskate, push, scurry, or ram past as many members of the other team as possible, while roller-skating in a tight pack of ten people around a 90-foot oval track. Strategy is more important than muscle, and theater is as much a part of the sport as the contact.
There are the roller derby names. Skaters use their nicknames or, after getting the feel of the game, make up an appropriate one, such as Salligator, Meals on Wheels, or Wee Beastieall on the Mad Knockers’ roster. Lauryn’s name, Langston Bruise, reflects her philosophy and values, as well as the gifts of a hard-fought bout. She grew up in South Africa, in years of conversation spent trying to dissolve the division of black and white, so an African American civil rights poet is a good reminder of what keeps her going, she said.
There are jersey numbers, like 3.14 and 40ish. Jess earned her number in graduate school when a friend dubbed her F1, an intensity rating on the Fujita scale for tornadoes that cause ‘moderate’ damage.’ Tuul’s number is 1206, the year Chingis Khaan (Genghis Khaan) united the Mongol tribes and established the Mongol Empire.
There’s the gear. Helmets, mouthguards, kneepads, wrist guards, and other safety gear are required and are checked by referees before the game and at half-time. Standard derby garb at one time was fishnet stockings and tutus; these days athletic gear is more common, although not for Jess. If they say you can’t wear fishnets anymore, I’m not playing, she said. (Kidding!)
There is some risk there have been two broken ankles in league play this season. But on the bright side, it conditions you for the other knocks in your life, Lauryn said. Accidents do happen but the team is there to support you through your healing, assured the team president.
But most of all there is the spirit, within the team and with the opponents. My favorite part of the sport is the camaraderie, the social and emotional outlet of coming together for a common love, Lauryn said. Hard-fought on the track, the teams are very cordial at the afterparty, where it’s a tradition to show off your bruises, and the skaters hug and ask about families.
The Mad Knockers are looking for more women who want to be their own heroes, as they say on their website. You don’t even have to know how to skate. As long as you don’t mind being called fresh meat, you can start out on the beginning level, and learn basic skating skills before working up to skating in bouts.
Come to a bout the next one for the Mad Knockers is May 10 in Lyndonville, Vermont. Or come to a practice, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. each Monday and Wednesday at Great Brook School in Antrim. But watch out the next thing you know you’ll be putting on skates and fishnets and heading onto the track.